March 15, 2015
Snow and Ice Control for Parking Lots and Sidewalks summarizes three years of research.
Snow and Ice Control for Parking Lots and Sidewalks summarizes three years of research.
A 32-page report that summarizes three years of research, Snow and Ice Control for Parking Lots and Sidewalks is a start to eventually creating working standards for the industry.

This according to Phill Sexton, Director of Education and Outreach at Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA): “The need to create industry standards on salt application is very important,” he says. “We can’t afford to let this report sit idle.”

The report’s authors are Kamal Hossain, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, and Liping Fu, Ph.D., P.Eng., Professor at the University of Waterloo. The field tests were conducted at a parking lot and several sidewalks located in the City of Waterloo, over three winters. Approximately 5,000 tests were conducted over nearly 100 winter snow events, covering a large number of treatment combinations in terms of material types, maintenance strategies, and treatment techniques under a wide range of winter weather conditions.

Sexton has taken on the unofficial role as a liaison between a working committee, created by SIMA and Landscape Ontario, and the University of Waterloo. Along with his position with SIMA, Sexton is also a private contractor. “As a contractor, I understand the need to develop practical rates that will provide an expected level of service within budget.”

Over the next few seasons, using the research report and ongoing studies with the university and contractors, Landscape Ontario and SIMA hope to create realistic data.

“Ultimately, we are working towards developing a standardized method for determining the most efficient salt application rates that provide the least impact to the environment, are defensible against slip and fall liability, and mitigate the risk of over-reliance on salt for business continuity,” says Sexton.

Field testing began in early February of this year with two contractors in the Kitchener-Waterloo area and two in the northeastern U.S. Results from those tests will be ready by the end of this summer. Sexton says he hopes to have more contractors involved in tests next year. Interested contractors may contact him, or Tony DiGiovanni at Landscape Ontario. Those taking part in the tests must have equipment to measure salt distribution.

Over than 70 per cent of the contractors surveyed in the University of Waterloo report currently do not have any equipment that can be used to accurately measure the amount of salt being used at different locations.

Over application

Under the heading, Summary of Major Findings, the University of Waterloo report states, “A majority of the contractors surveyed (60 per cent) prefer to have ‘Salt Extra’ contracts and this preference remains similar across contractors serving different types of clients. Given the limited guidelines and references available for this industry, along with no incentive to save salt (as it is paid for by the client), it can be expected that the industry is prone to over-application of salt.”

The report also states, “Despite their proven effectiveness (NCHRP, 2004), pre-wetting and direct liquid application (DLA) are not used widely with only a small number of contractors indicating their prior experience (25 per cent and 15 per cent respectively). While high initial cost is one of the major hurdles in adopting new methods and technologies, another reason for the low adoption rate is the lack of formal studies and guidelines that explain the correct use and potential savings for parking lots and sidewalks.”

On the issue of salt application and slip and fall litigation, the report states, “From a sustainability perspective, the majority of the contractors reported applying excess salt to avoid slips and falls, which often lead to litigations and increases in insurance premiums. Given the relatively low price of salt, minimal penalties for over-application, and a majority of contracts being ‘Salt Extra,’ it can be expected that this trend for over application of salt will continue. A large proportion of the respondents (75 per cent) believe that 10 per cent or more salt could be saved if litigations and insurance premiums were not a concern.”

Sexton believes that as an industry, we can no longer turn a blind eye to the environmental effects of salt. “The economic impacts have become clearer, particularly after last season’s challenges with supply and demand for salt. These recent fluctuations, and their significant risk potential for snow professionals, are symptoms of an over-reliance on salt within our industry. Yes, salt will always be an essential component in the snow management toolbox, but it can’t be the only one.”

The Waterloo University Report outlines deicing treatments using regular rock salts, pre-wetted salts, and several semi- to full-organic salts such as Green Salts, Blue Salts, Jet Blue and Slicer. “It was observed that alternative products generally outperformed regular rock salt. The bare pavement regain time on the sections applied with these alternatives was approximately one hour shorter in average than those using rock salt.”

The test results did not indicate statistically significant differences between the performance of organic products and chloride based salts. “This finding has confirmed that the organic products are at least as effective as the regular products for anti-icing operations in addition to the advantage of being environmentally friendly,” states the report.

Sexton says, “Societal perspectives have shifted over the past 15 to 20 years. Contractors are faced with higher-than-ever expectations for performing the work, while being forced to absorb more and more liability. These undeniable trends have led to a dramatic increase in salt output within our industry over time. Like it or not, these increases can have negative effects on the environment, particularly fresh water resources, which we as a human race rely on more than any other resource on earth. The current trends for salt usage in our industry will not continue without scrutiny.”

The SIMA official concludes, “There is a global push from an environmental perspective to hold the snow and ice management industry accountable for using salt more efficiently. Those who start now win. Those who continue to turn a blind eye and decide it’s ‘just a phase’ will eventually lose…lose their credibility, lose their clients, and lose their business.”

Phil Sexton may be contacted at, and Tony DiGiovanni at The complete report may be accessed at